film reel image

film reel image

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Wheelman 2017 * * * Stars


The wheelman in 2017's Wheelman is named the anonymous "wheelman". He is portrayed by Frank Grillo in a role that he was probably born to play. Grillo's style of acting is to appear fervent, raw, and rattled, like a dude who lives his life the same as a New York minute. In almost every frame of Wheelman that runs 82 minutes, Frank Grillo is like Ryan O'Neal, Ryan Gosling, and Steve McQueen. You know, guys with nameless character names that took the whip, did some hooning, squealed out of the garage like a mother, and burned a whole lot of rubber. "You just drive the car". Uh, there's more to it than that pal. 

Shot in Boston, MA with maybe one or two camera setups and lots of close-ups, Wheelman is about a getaway driver who on a routine bank robbery gig, gets messed with by outside entities who try to thwart his mission of taking the money to the drop. Driving a stick shift and armed with a nasty chip on his shoulder plus an AK-47, Grillo makes Wheelman take shape like a one-man show. He talks nervously on his cell phone, evades various bad guys, flexes his machismo, and shows off his mad navigating skills via a shiny Beemer. "Sit back". Yeah you tell 'em Frankie. 

Assault rifles and New England locales aside, Wheelman is shot POV-style with aplomb for most of the way. Wheelman is also lean and mean, noir-like, and darkly pulpy, a nifty little thriller that excels more in terms of modus operandi and agitation than overall story. Grillo, well he makes it as watchable as it can be until Wheelman's complicated plot workings of innominate, hoodwink mob types and unknown caller voices kick in. Then the film misses greatness only to try and "reinvent itself". Natch. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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